Travel in Latin America
When my wife and I moved to Guanajuato, Mexico as forty-something American expats, we had a list of reasons for doing so. The list has been growing incrementally since moving here. I want to share an incident that caused that list to increase by one more reason. I think the list is now at 10,001 reasons why we now live in Mexico.
For our 24th wedding anniversary (that’s right, we are Americans and have been married for that long), we went on a little trip to a city in Central Mexico called Querétaro. It is a mere two and a half hours away by bus. And, by the way, going by bus is the preferred method of travel in Mexico. You are served food and drink, just like on a plane, but without the hassles.
Querétaro was founded in July 1531 when Spanish invaders (infection), led by Conquistador Hernán Pérez Bocanegra y Córdoba, came and took the city without so much as a fistfight. In the year 1656, the Viceroy, the Duke of Albuquerque, named the town "The Noble and Loyal City of Santiago of Querétaro." Try putting that as your return address when mailing your Visa bill!
This is a historically significant and charming colonial town whose growth has exploded in the last twenty years. We stayed in the area they’ve been forced to call “The Historic District.” You would swear, if you didn’t know there was a gigantic sprawling metropolitan city outside of the Historic District, that Querétaro is a charming little colonial Mexican town. It is not small.
In fact, there are almost a million people in the greater metropolitan area spewing smog into the air from their cars. There are also factories of various industries in the outlying areas of the city. It was choking and I am sure can give you a good case of lung cancer as well as Mexico City can.
We had a cheap hotel. The bathroom was exactly 39 inches wide. The toilet sat with only 5.5 inches between the bowl and the wall. I had to sit sideways to use it. Once during the night, I had to go and fell asleep on the toilet with my head resting, and I might add comfortably, on the wall. My poor wife almost had to have the paramedics to get her on and off the toilet.
Well, what happened that has caused our “Reasons for moving to Mexico list” to increase by the factor of one happened when we were walking through the marvelous pedestrian areas of the “Historic District.” The city has these vast expanses where you can walk and not have your life in danger because people knock you off the sidewalk into the path of an oncoming bus. This is a Guanajuato phenomenon where you risk your life daily when walking. For some reason, the locals seem to push you off the sidewalks routinely. Twice buses have hit me after I experienced this Guanajuato event. It’s very exciting to live here.
They didn’t do this in Queretaro.
I don’t know if they wanted to push my gringo buttocks into the path of an oncoming bus or not. The point is, there are no buses in these pedestrian walking areas. The absence of buses removes the temptation in case they indeed do want to.
We were about to visit this building that used to house prisoners in what would today have civil-rights group screaming. They had these jail cells that were nothing more than a slightly curved impressions in the walls with bars that are now removed. It was amazing. I could not begin to fathom how someone could stand in the thing. It was maybe three feet deep and less than four feet high and they would lock criminals in these holes. I just love this country!
Before entering this building, a guy rushed up to us and said in perfect English,
“Tell me that you are husband and wife. You’ve just got to be husband and wife.”
I asked what appeared to be a well heeled and articulate American male, maybe in his late forties or early fifties, why he needed to know that.
His response was,
“You look like brother and sister.”
Well, I wanted to vomit.
After assuring him we were very, very married, we quickly left and went into the building to see the torture-chamber jails after experiencing a bit of torture outside.
I saw him in the building a few minutes later, whereupon he told me that he had been following us around “observing us” and was very disturbed that we appeared to be brother and sister and was being inappropriately affectionate with one another.
Now you have to get the import of this. He actually admitted to following us around the historic district of Querétaro. Then, he actually thought that we looked so alike that we had to be siblings. Then, he thought that here we were, BLOOD RELATED, kissing like a pair of rabbits in heat.
This man was an American.
Need I say more?
Yes, I must.
Something similar happened in Guanajuato in our famous, El Jardin. We were sitting there when this American male (what’s with crazy American men?) sat on a bench beside us. He told us he was a world-renowned Pediatrician who has moved to Guanajuato (we’ve only seen him once) but who now practices medicine online. He told us he could cure any disease using a computer.
Now I can say: NEED I SAY MORE?